A Woodbury youth football team is trying to do something no other squad in the city’s history has accomplished: win a national championship.
The Woodbury Athletic Association’s fourth-grade team won the Minnesota championship last weekend and will head to Texas Dec. 9-11 to take on the nation’s best in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament.
“In my opinion, the team’s good enough to win the whole thing,” said head coach Donnell Britt, whose son is on the team.
Britt said the coaches have been great, but the team also features “special players who are probably a step above the normal fourth-grader."
“We’ve got six or seven kids where he can get the ball and take it to the house,” he said.
But the team’s calling card is its defense, Britt said, and the Royals shut out their opponent in the Minnesota championship game while notching 21 points against a team that hadn’t allowed a score all season.
The team is comprised of players from four in-house WAA teams and they only had two practices before the Minnesota tournament, Britt said. There are even a couple of third-graders on the team. (They're called the Royals since they came together.)
The boys had a scare in their first game of the state competition. “From there, we rolled through the tournament,” Britt said.
“The kids smiled and had fun, but they took it seriously, too,” he said.
With a new coach at Woodbury High School, it’s good to see that the WAA youth football program is gaining some traction, Britt said.
“Usually, when the season is over it’s hockey and basketball,” he said.
Britt also coaches a middle school team, and Woodbury football coach Andy Hill has passed down his offensive and defensive schemes to be installed at the lower levels.
“Coach Hill really opened his arms to us,” Britt said. “He has been a great adviser and ambassador for the little kids.”
Britt has been a youth football coach for several years, and said he most enjoys seeing young athletes grow as players.
“Taking that C kid and making him a B kid. Turning those B kids into A kids, and taking that A kid and making him an elite player,” he said.
Parents and coaches plan to organize fundraisers to help pay for travel expenses and AAU fees. Those who would like to contribute can email Britt at email@example.com.
“If we can get to Houston, we can win a national championship,” he said.
Well-known youth athletics coach Gary Rinehart heads up the team’s defense.
He was recently diagnosed with cancer and Britt’s regular-season team, which went undefeated, dedicated its season to Rinehart.
Rinehart was also awarded the MVP trophy following the Minnesota championship game.
Assistant coaches: Bryan Green, Gary Rinehart, Darren Castro, William Glaeser and Robert Kerber